Southtown’s Frutería-Botanero




San Antonio’s friendliest chef, Johnny Hernandez, reboots his Southtown Fruteria and   bets on a botanero to bring in casual cocktail crowds and bring back old friends.



By Janis Turk


There’s no smiling face I’d rather spot in a crowd than that of Johnny Hernandez. Nobody seems quite as happy, friendly, sincere, and kind as this busy, creative local celebrity chef. 


So it’s no wonder that Hernandez’ unique brand of exuberance and authenticity would welcome diners the moment they step into his newly revamped and reimagined Frutería-Botanero. Enter this happening Southtown spot and instantly behold bursts of vibrant colors, hear the happy chatter of customers, enjoy the clinking of glasses in a toast, and get a whiff of inviting aromas from the kitchen.



For the past 9 years, Hernandez’ Frutería was mostly a morning juice place and lunch and dinner spot with an easy afternoon ambiance. Hernandez even took me on a hard-hat tour as he built it. But now, following a renovation and concept reboot, this new botanero leans into sundown, with a larger bar area and a super-casual dinner vibe. With a quieter, newly enclosed kitchen, a fresh menu with stand-alone plates to share with family and friends, it’s a good place to nosh the night away. If you imbibe, be sure to sip frutería-inspired cocktails, and try the classics, too.


So what exactly is a frutería or a botanero


In Mexico, a frutería is a fruit stand/juice bar that also may offer fresh fruit cups, licuados (smoothies), tortas, and tostadas for breakfast and lunch. A traditional Mexican botanero, though, is like a hybrid bar/restaurant: a place to find tasty food and refreshing beverages without a barroom feel or the formality of a restaurant. Botana is Spanish for snacks, like tapas in Spain, usually shared with friends over a drink. It may be anything from a mushroom quesadilla (Johnny’s look more like empanadas inspired by street quesadillas of Mexico City) to a heartier dish. Hernandez had fun fusing his two concepts and reimagining the space. He even turned his alley into a garden.


Start with a margarita, of course. Nobody makes one better than Johnny. Frozen or on the rocks, Hernandez makes his house margarita with freshly-squeezed lime, pineapple, and orange juice, Cointreau, and El Jimador Tequila. There are also infused margaritas with fresh lime, pineapple, orange juice, Patron Citrónge Liqueur, and your choice of piña mescal, Jimador Blanco and berries, or a spicy Seis Chiles option with Jimador Blanco, red and green peppers, habanero, and jalapeños. Or try Los Pepinos, for a fresh cool option made with cucumbers, lime juice, and a Pepinos Vodka infusion. Hernandez also offers the finest Herradura anejo tequilas. Sure to please a San Antonio woman, the Lady Lavanda is layered with liquid lavender colors, lemonade, vodka, fresh lavender, and gin. My new favorite drink, though, is the Sol de Nayarit, made with coconut water, elderflower, guanabana fruit, muddled lemon, and gin sprinkled with sparkling edible glitter to add surprising shimmer. If Carrie Bradshaw lived in South Texas, she’d call this the “San Antonio Cosmo.”




As in all 10 of Hernandez’ eateries (with others soon to open at Brooks City Base and beyond), the focus at Frutería-Botanero is on dynamic food inspired from traditional flavors of Central and Southern Mexico.


“What we offer isn’t some fancy composed meal, but individual dishes,” he says. Friends will feel they’ve shared a special evening experience exploring new flavors, savoring old favorites, and enjoying things they never dreamed they’d love.


For instance, I tend to dislike moles: In my experience, they are often just thick brown chili and chocolate-laced sauces smothering otherwise good food. Not Johnny’s. 


“I wanted to create a new mole with pistachios and roasted pineapple to complement the hot-seared salmon I serve it with.” Colorful, light, and refreshing, it provides the perfect flavor profile to elevate the fish.


Another outstanding dish is the house ceviche. Hernandez even visited Peru, where it originated, to learn more about how it’s made. “In Peru, they don’t serve it with tostados, but rather they toss in large kernels of toasted corn for that added crunch. They also use a specially made leche de tigre (“tiger’s milk”) to cure it.” 




Get friends to share Johnny’s Guadalajara-inspired carne asada en su jugo, butter-soft, chile-rubbed, Choice ribeye, savory beef broth, nopalitos, and charred onion. I also adored the guacamole with its oversized sombrero of a cheese crisp on top.


The shaded outdoor patio dining space out front has been newly paved in hand-painted tile, and indoors the back wall features a mural inspired by a colorful Mexican sarape. Near the bar stands the colorful tree art sculpture of the original Frutería, and from the ceiling floats an art installation of colorful hummingbirds with outstretched wings all aflutter.




Closed Mondays, open for dinner Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays from 4-10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to midnight, this is sure to be our “new, old-favorite” Johnny Hernandez hangout.


With any luck at all, we’ll see Johnny’s smiling face there to greet us. Of course, he may be busy at one of his La Gloria restaurants, Burgerteca, food trucks, True Flavors Catering, or doing a food segment for a national television show. Hernandez even has a new line of heat-and-serve dishes in H-E-B stores.


If you do see him, tell Johnny I sent you. He’s sure to sit down for a minute and make you feel at home.






1401 South Flores Street, Suite 102

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